Press Article
Rapid City Journal - United Way $300,000 behind goal
December 14, 2012

-Jennifer Naylor Gesick 

Eileen Leir is worried she may not be able to help parents in need of basic necessities like diapers if funding from United Way does not come through this year. 

"The money we get from United Way helps us with operating costs, so it helps keep our lights on and our doors open," Leir, director of Volunteers of America, Dakotas' Mommy's Closet program, said Thursday. 

Leir's nonprofit depends on United Way's annual fundraising drive for most of its funds. 

Renee Parker, executive director of United Way of the Black Hills, said Thursday at a news conference that she has those same concerns as the deadline for this year's fundraising drive nears. 

The organization, she said, is $100,000 behind where it was this time last year and nearly $300,000 short of its 2013 goal, which is less than last year's goal of $2,340,000. 

"We thought it was better to under promise and over deliver," Parker said. 

Now, with only two weeks remaining before this year's fundraising deadline, she is concerned that for the first time in 20 years the organization will not be able to deliver on its promises to 52 local nonprofit agencies. 

This year's goal is set at $2,295,000. The local nonprofit agencies sent funding requests to United Way in May. And after a review by the board of directors, each agency was promised and budgeted for a certain amount of money. 

Parker said she can't point to a specific reason why it has been so tough to raise money this year, but she believes it is a combination of a weak economy, a polarized Congress and businesses that have contributed in the past having fewer workers. She said if everyone who donated last year would donate this year, they would easily meet their goal. 

Nearly every nonprofit agency that receives United Way support has reported funding reductions from all levels of government, while at the same time these organizations are seeing a greater need for their services, Parker said. 

Leir said her nonprofit has seen an increased need this year for items like diapers, formula and clothes for young children. 

"We have a lot of new people that are in crisis, like when those apartments burned down," Leir said, referring to a recent fire in Rapid City that left four dead and displaced 17 other residents. She said her organization gets referrals from police, the fire department, and other local United Way agencies like Working Against Violence, Inc. 

In November, the Mommy's Closet program served 450 people, with 95 of them reported as homeless. 

"When families with children are out in the cold, the last thing people think about is that they need diapers and formula," Leir said. "A lot of time, people have to choose between food and diapers. 

Leir said she hopes the community will pull together now as the holiday season approaches. 

"People have to look more and more to the community because state and federal government funds are not there," she said. "We're getting back to the time when those in the community have to take care of those in desperate situations." 

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